Max Design's Interior Design Blog
I've recently worked on some kitchen and bath projects that have afforded me the opportunity to use a variety of materials in order to create some very unique looks.
One project, a 1980s home, involved updating four bathrooms that featured combinations of rose, blue, green and white. The client desired a toned-down, subtle, natural look for each of the bathrooms.
For the largest, a combination of botticino marble with beautiful peach and beige tones and a crackled tile in the softest of beige/peach created a sophisticated and light guest bathroom. Lighting was updated from simple Hollywood bulbs to strip lighting with soft, frosted glass and polished nickel accents to coordinate with new polished nickel fixtures.
The smaller bathrooms featured variations on travertine, with fantastic mosaic and pebble accents, and beautiful traverine or granite countertops. The look was transformed from cute and dated to tailored and natural.
A recent kitchen renovation centered around the color blue given the client's fondness for the color. Grey/blue slate tiles were laid on the floor in interesting patterns and size variations, and soft wedgewood blue cabinets with beadboard detailing contributed to a casual feeling. We used Blue Pearl granite on the countertops. Sounds like alot of blue but the end result was nothing short of stunning, as the different visual layers all came together in a very subtle way.
Sunny yellow and white backsplash tile accents added a cheery note, and pendant lighting with yellow/amber colored shades added whimsy. Even on dark, rainy days, the new kitchen is bright and upbeat as a result of the fun color palette and plenty of general and task lighting.
Here are some of the tiles that we used for the baths. Beautiful!
And here are some selections we used for the kitchens:
A few of my recent projects have involved arched windows. One project was a residential condominium and the other two were custom homes. Arched windows are wonderful architectural features, but they can present challenges when it comes to light control and privacy.
Solutions should be based upon how much room there is for outside mount or inside mount treatments, whether the desired look is tailored or soft, whether total blackout or simple light filtering is required, and whether complete window coverage or partial window coverage is desired.
One option is to not add any window treatments. Let the light shine in! However, if you're in search of some privacy or need to block some of the light entering the room, there are several options. Here are just some of them:
Solar Shades - these unobtrusive and streamlined shades filter the light with different grades of filtering available. Generally installed as outside mount, solar shades can be fully raised to expose arched windows or lowered to provide partial or total coverage. Solar shades do not provide blackout or total privacy, and basically serve as a screen.
Inside Mount Privacy Sheers - for a look that is both tailored and soft at the same time, sheer fabric shirred on a rod (at top, or at top and bottom) is a nice solution. A bit more traditional in appearance than shades, privacy sheers can be installed inside mount in order to preserve the integrity and lines of the arched window, and can be installed at the highest point possible before the arch begins, or at a lower point if desired. This type of treatment can create privacy and coverage while still allowing an open area at the arch.
Cellular Shades - probably one of the more flexible and cost effective options, cellular shades can be installed outside mount for a simple solution. Installed above the window opening, an outside mount cellular shade can be dropped fully or partially for adjustable light control. Cellular shades can be translucent or opaque, depending upon the lining. Inside mount cellular shades are also popular, and can feature top-down / bottom-up controls that enable the shade to be raised up partially or fully from the window sill. Cellular arch infills are also available enabling the arched section of the window to be filled in. These infills can be stationary or can be opened as needed.
Shutters - for a substantial and architecturally interesting solution, shutters provide privacy, light control and flexibility. Depending on dimensions and customization, shutters could potentially cost quite a bit more than shades or fabric treatments. Plantation style shutters with large blades and rails, installed inside mount, provide a clean, and tailored solution. Shutters are generally installed to fill in partial height rather than full height, but full height shutter treatments are possible.
Drapery Panels - whether sheer or lined for privacy and light control, traversing panels that are mounted above and outside the arched window provide a warm, decorative look that is also fairly simple and very functional. When open, panels create a soft framework for arched windows that can help tie a room together. When closed, panels provide privacy and light control of varying degrees, depending upon the fabric and lining used.
Recently, I was pointed to Justice Design Group
by an electrician that I was working with to specify exterior lighting for a home renovation. I'd seen Justice products before, but I'd not had an opportunity to use them.
Well, I've found Justice to be a great example of excellence in design and quality. The materials used and the finishes available for both exterior and interior lighting are top notch. When looking for exterior sconces for front and side entries, I was presented with choices from ADA compliant fixtures to "dark sky" (environmentally and wildlife friendly downlight only) fixtures, and choices in both metal and ceramic construction.
For interior products, the families of chandeliers, bowls, pendants, wall sconces, bath/vanity lighting and freestanding fixtures are cohesive and well made, featuring hand-cast ceramics and hand-finished metals. The array of ceramic shades available, in many appealing shapes and designs (or "impressions"), reflects Justice Design Group's fine aesthetics and commitment to quality.
Architects, designers and contractors alike are drawn to Justice Design Groups fine selections and materials. Their website is easy to use and they have a showroom finder on their site for locating a showroom near you.
Disclaimer: I receive absolutely no compensation of any kind from Justice Design Group.
This product has been available for a couple of years, but just recently caught my eye when I was researching fixtures for a bathroom renovation project that required a contemporary direction.
The Kohler "WaterTile
" shower head and body spray line features a vertical wall installation that ties in quite nicely with tile, and also features a fully adjustable, pivoting spray face.
The "WaterTile" is available in a wide range of Kohler finishes, and works well with many of their fixtures, especially the more chunky or angular fixtures such as the Memoirs, Pinstripe or Margaux lines, thereby offering a terrific way to introduce a contemporary element to a bathroom project, whether in an entirely contemporary setting or a more traditional one.
The "WaterTile" line also features a round body spray option
, which is installed virtually flush to the wall, is adjustable up and down to alter the spray angle, and coordinates well with some of the Kohler round fittings such as the Forte or Coralais lines.
I love how the WaterTile shower head and body sprays can be so easily integrated into shower wall tile, the clean lines of the products' designs, and the wide range of finish options that are available, making it a great solution for many bath renovation or new construction projects.
When working with clients to select art that is unique to their homes, I frequently suggest groupings of family photos. The beauty of this approach is that it can be built upon over the years and can create a very personal timeline and story reflecting memorable moments, growth, and change. It's truly personalized art that can be edited and adapted as much or as little as clients like.
I often recommend that clients organize photos into public and private groupings. Public groupings include photos that one wishes to share with everyone (extended family, visitors, and guests), and might be hung in an entry way, kitchen, stairway, or family room, and often remind visitors of fun holiday get togethers and special occasions such as birthdays or graduation celebrations. Historic family photos are often included in these arrangements, making great conversation pieces as well as nice remembrances of days gone by.
Private photo groupings feature cherished photos that remind one of a very special and personal family moment, possibly as part of the decor of a master bedroom, upstairs hallway, or home office. These often include wedding photos, baby photos, and vacation photos.
When it comes to color vs. black and white, both can result in very nice arrangements. I generally keep the grouping consistent, by using all color photos or all black and white photos in a single grouping. Frames can be varied to avoid giving the impression that the photos were all framed at the same time or that the frames came from the same place. Antiqued frames can be successfully mixed with more contemporary frames to keep the look a bit eclectic. In fact, collecting antique or vintage frames can become a fun and inexpensive hobby.
Another fun way to create personalized art is to frame kids' school projects - from preschool on up through high school. It's amazing how great a framed art project or craft can look, and it's a great way to create a permanent keepsake. Framing recent "works of art" or going back through old school projects can be a fun way to compliment kids' creativity and originality, and to encourage new works as well!
For many interior design and architecture students and professionals, books by Francis D. Ching have proven to be extremely useful resources. His Design Drawing and Building Construction Illustrated are often required or recommended reading material for design students.
Ching's illustrations, descriptions and discussions on the topic of drawing basics in Design Drawing
reflect an ease and simplicity that certainly gave me confidence in my own sketches and drawings, and his coverage of building construction provides a common sense and practical overview of building technology, emphasizing that one must be familiar with construction practices before one can actually design something that would be feasible or buildable.
One of the first books required as part of my four-year interior design studies at Cornell was Ching's Building Construction Illustrated which emphasized the important relationships between construction, technology, and design.
Ching's books have been updated over the years to reflect changes and advances in sustainable practices, building technology, building code, and in CAD software applications. A number of Ching's books are available with a companion CD-ROM which adds three dimensional demonstrations and applications of the material covered in the books. The timelessness of his drawings and written content keep the material fresh and relevant.
Other Ching classics, Architecture: Form, Space and Order and A Visual Dictionary of Architecture present invaluable written and visual information regarding the vocabulary and elements of architecture and design. These books offer budding architecture and design students, as well as practicing professionals, a review of the fundamental principles of architecture, and describe the relationships between components of building, architecture, and design.
The books I've listed are but a few of his works.
Francis Ching is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington's Department of Architecture. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame in 1966, and began his teaching career in 1972 at Ohio University. Mr. Ching has taught at the University of Washington for the past 20 years, teaching design studio and drawing courses. Here's his profile
I came across the Genuine Stone website
recently, a very nicely done website indeed - one that's owned by the Natural Stone Council, a collaboration between various business and trade associations that wish to promote natural stone for commercial and residential design and construction.
On its website, the council bills natural stone as an earth-friendly alternative to competing materials. But as with most everything when it comes to environmental sustainability, there are pros and cons to using natural stone products.
Let me first say that I absolutely LOVE granite and other natural stone surfaces!
While I marvel at the wonderful variety of options offered by all of the different types of natural stone and am amazed and inspired by the beauty of travertines and limestone, river bed granites, fossilized stone, and other natural stone products, I'm also greatly concerned about the environmental and local impact of granite mining around the world.
Once stone is in place, it's durability and permanent beauty is very evident. Just think of all of the enduring monuments and buildings throughout the world that are made of stone. With regard to permanence, stone is very sustainable. However, while the mining industry has made improvements in recent years, the mining and transportation of stone is generally not very environmentally friendly at all.
Issues include heavy water consumption, what happens to the mining site once the natural resources have been extracted from it, radon and other gaseous byproducts, and the use of heavy equipment for mining, processing and transportation.
One way to minimize the impact upon the environment when using natural stone is to use locally mined products. Not only does doing so minimize the impacts associated with transportation of the materials, but it also helps the local economy.
Another is to purchase products that come from mines where environmentally friendly practices are used. For example, refer to this Green Building Matters blog page
for an interesting and thoughtful discussion regarding the Cold Spring Granite mine in Minnesota and some of things Cold Spring is doing to minimize the impact upon our planet.
A trend I've seen with many clients is a greater focus upon family time and family rooms. Perhaps its because of the down economy and the fact that homeowners are travelling less these days and eating in more, but no matter the reason, clients are looking for fantastic family rooms that provide plenty of comfortable seating and gathering and which allow a variety of activities such as TV viewing, reading, enjoying the fireplace, playing games, entertaining, and the like. An area for desktop computing is often a requirement as well.
If room permits, I'll typically work with clients to define different seating groups or activity areas within the family room space.
Depending on the stage that a family is at, we'll prioritize needs such as toy and game storage, homework and computer areas, video game areas, even areas for music rehearsal if needed.
A nice development over the past several years is the flat panel TV, for a couple of reasons. Even a large flat panel TV takes up less space than the huge, bulky big screen TVs of the past. Those sets could really dominate and dwarf a nice family room. If there isn't room for separate fireplace and TV areas, with some planning and hidden wiring it's possible to mount a flat panel TV immediately above the fireplace. Doing so makes it possible to use a sectional sofa with a focal point that includes both the fireplace and the TV. There is then often secondary space that can be used for a reading nook, a desk area, or a game table area.
When possible, I encourage the use of hardwood floors rather than wall-to-wall carpeting for family rooms. Hardwood offers a tailored and classic appearance, whether the decor is traditional or contemporary. It also allows the use of area rugs that can really enhance the personality of a family room. From oriental to contemporary to modular tiles, area rugs play a lead role in a room's finished appearance, and can define the different areas within the room.
One of the first book assignments for many aspiring young architecture and design students is The Master Builders
, which was first published in 1960 yet is still very relevant today. The book focuses on three pioneering masters of modern architecture: Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Frank Lloyd Wright, and provides a great introduction to architecture of the 20th century.
The author, Peter Blake, was himself an architect, and lists among his many accomplishments throughout his storied life his appointment as curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in 1948 and 1949.
In 1950, Mr. Blake started as an associate editor of the now defunct but once widely popular Architectural Forum magazine. He ultimately served as editor in chief of the magazine from 1965 to 1972. Mr. Blake wrote extensively and taught and lectured both here in the United States and abroad.
Designers - Ever find yourself running around, spending huge amounts of time looking at tile, stone, plumbing fixtures, lighting, fabrics, and the like? The internet is a highly useful tool, but there's often no substitute for seeing and touching "the real thing" when it comes to material selection. Ever then wonder if you can justify all of that time when billing your client, if you're working on a hourly or consulting basis?
The answer is a big YES, given that you are researching and selecting items with the clients' best interests in mind, and providing information and specifications as they have hired you to do. Generally, designers and clients have established a budget framework to follow, and hours can be incurred in many different ways.
If working on a fixed-fee basis, designers need to be careful that they are fairly compensated for the all of the time they spend on a project, and that their compensation doesn't flatten out. Experienced designers are usually fairly well accomplished at estimating fixed fees, but it can sometimes take quite a bit of homework and thought about every possible detail of a project to arrive at a realistic and fair fixed fee.
Even minor details can consume a significant amount of a designer's time. Grout colors, cabinet hardware, switchplate and outlet cover colors, paint finish specs (eggshell vs. pearl?), and many other details must be kept track of and taken into account when estimating fair compensation.
At the same time, clients need to understand that the designer is typically highly invested in making sure that everything turns out great for the client, and that he or she will typically need to spend a significant amount of time pay attention to details, making potentially numerous trips to the design center, as well as phone calls and emails to ensure that all aspects of a project are covered, no matter how large or small. The intangibles that contribute to a project's success are sometimes difficult to measure. Whether you're working on an hourly basis, a fixed fee, or a mark-up basis, designers typically strive to produce wonderful results at realistic and fair rates.